There are several schools of thought when it comes to Jambalaya; here is the Cajun version of the infamous recipe.
The key to great jambalaya is to saute and brown all of the ingredients–meats and vegetables–in a cast-iron pot. This is what gives a Cajun recipe for jambalaya its bronze color and rich flavor. It is considered sacrilege if you don’t fresh ingredients and perfectly steamed rice.
Creole cuisine uses tomatoes and proper Cajun food does not. A vastly simplified way to describe the two cuisines is to deem Creole cuisine as “city food” while Cajun cuisine is often referred to as “country food.” While many of the ingredients in Cajun and Creole dishes are similar, the real difference between the two styles is the people behind these famous cuisines.
The word “Cajun” originates from the term “les Acadians,” which was used to describe French colonists who settled in the Acadia region of Canada which consisted of present-day New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. With the British Conquest of Acadia in the early 1700s, the Acadians were forcibly removed from their home in what become known as Le Grand Derangement, or the Great Upheaval. Many Acadians eventually settled in the swampy region of Louisiana that is today known as Acadiana.
The term “Creole” describes the population of people who were born to settlers in French colonial Louisiana, specifically in New Orleans. In the 18th century Creoles consisted of the descendants of the French and Spanish upper class that ruled the city. Over the years the term Creole grew to include native-born slaves of African descent as well as free people of color. Typically, the term “French Creole” described someone of European ancestry born in the colony and the term “Louisiana Creole” described someone of mixed racial ancestry.
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup diced green onions, tops only
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 cups diced sweet yellow onion
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced green bell pepper
2 cups sliced smoked pork sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup sliced andouille sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup diced tasso (cured smoked pork butt)
1 cup diced ham
4 strips of smoked bacon, chopped
Dash of hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
4 cups pork or chicken stock
½ cup beer
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- In a large, heavy cast-iron pot with a heavy lid over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until crispy.
- Remove the bacon, chop into pieces and save for later.
- Add the onions, celery, and bell pepper to the bacon drippings. Cook until translucent and add the garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes and then remove the vegetables and set aside.
- In the same pot, add the sausages, tasso, and ham. Continue to sauté until the meats turn brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Deglaze the pot by pouring in the beer and scraping the bits from the bottom of the pot while stirring.
- Add the bacon pieces, all of the browned vegetables, parsley, and green onions. Add the cayenne and a couple of shakes of hot sauce along with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Add the rice to the pot and stir until evenly distributed. Add the stock and stir again.
- Here is the important point of jambalaya cooking – cover the pot and place in the hot oven for 1 hour. Do not stir or even raise the lid on the pot for the first hour. In that hour, all the flavors are coming together, and the rice is gently cooking.
- At the end of 1 hour, take a peek, but do not stir (or it will become sticky and starchy). Make sure most of the stock has been absorbed and take a taste to see if the rice is cooked to at least al dente. If so, turn off the oven, cover the pot and let it continue cooking in the carryover heat of the oven for another 20 minutes.
Do you have a secret family recipe for Jambalaya?